It’s always surprising to find out where shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” get inspiration for episodes. One unlikely person offered a lot.
Anyone who is a fan of this classic TV staple knows actor Andy Griffith used his hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., as a model for Mayberry. Well, there was another person who used to share his family’s experiences in North Carolina with Griffith all the time.
Makeup artist Lee Greenway, who made sure Griffith, Don Knotts, and other cast members looked good, struck up a solid friendship with Griffith. According to an article from metv.com, Greenway would share some life experiences with Griffith and they would find their way into episodes.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Makeup Artist Had Same Home State Roots As Star
Greenway grew up in Rutherfordton, N.C., so he had something in common with Griffith – their home states. He said that Griffith and him not only talked a lot on set but played guitar together during downtime.
But it is the back-home experiences that Greenway shares with Griffith that found their way into “The Andy Griffith Show.” One example Greenway pointed to is the episode called “The Rehabilitation of Otis.” It’s the one where Otis, played by Hal Smith, rides into Mayberry drunker than a skunk on top of a cow he thinks is a horse.
Greenway shared a real-life example with Griffith of a family member who drunkenly rode toward his family’s house on a mule. He traded that for a cow, then headed back out, and Greenway’s family drove out to find the family member on the ground. That family member just turns out to be drunk. It’s not a good look when the cow you’ve been riding is standing over you and looking down.
This real-life adventure and others found their way into “The Andy Griffith Show.” Life in small-town North Carolina might reflect other small towns across the United States. There is a charm in the simplicity of those times, though, that keeps drawing generation after generation into Mayberry.
Greenway died on March 7, 1989. Griffith died on July 3, 2012.
Show Star Admits He Enjoyed Working With Creator Sheldon Leonard
Many people might think Andy Griffith created his show, but that’s not true. The first time Griffith appeared as Sheriff Andy Taylor was on an episode of “The Danny Thomas Show” on ABC.
Now Thomas did have a role through his production company in getting Griffith’s show up and going. Yet it was Thomas’s business partner, Sheldon Leonard, who created “The Andy Griffith Show.” Leonard was a fine actor in his own right, always appearing at Christmas on your TV screens as the bartender in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Griffith loved working with Leonard. One big reason is that Leonard let Griffith have his way in steering the show’s path on CBS.
“Friday we rehearsed, and we shot Monday, Tuesday, (and) Wednesday,” Griffith said in an interview with the Archive of American Television a number of years ago. “Sheldon would come down we read two scripts on Thursday. One to be shot a week away, and one we shot that following Monday.”
Griffith also said Leonard would read them and leave notes. That was it. From that point, it was up to Griffith and the cast to accept them or not. He received no criticism from Leonard if his ideas weren’t used.
Talk about giving a show’s star some freedom. That’s what Sheldon Leonard, who died on Jan. 10, 1997, did with Andy Griffith.